CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Grubbin'-est Place on Earth (Disneyland Dining -- Anaheim, CA)

So I'm a big, fat hypocrite. I shop blue. Try to patronize mom and pop businesses. I'd rather eviscerate myself than eat fast food (due to their politics and human rights violations, although the shitty food certainly contributes to that one). I buy my groceries at Rainbow and Whole Foods (a.k.a. Whole Paycheck). I use hippie cat litter. But, my friends, I have one great weakness. And that weakness is Disneyland.

It goes against my better judgment, but I just can't stay away. In fact, Jon and I were annual passholders for two years. We didn't renew this year because, well, they raised the prices for the fucking 50 year anniversary and they currently have about 2 goddamn rides open (I mean, really, closing space mountain for two years is just unacceptable). Despite not having an annual pass anymore, we still make the pilgrimage at least twice a year. And when we go, we get there when they open and don't leave until the last possible minute, running between the parks like freaks and collecting crazy amounts of fast passes so we never have to wait in a line (side note: fast pass is one of the only systems in the world built for smart people. Most things are built for the lowest common denominator, making it a world for fucking idiots). After three days there, I get what I call "Disney sickness," which is basically the shakes, combined with other signs that your body is going to completely shut down on you any minute. Because we clock at least ten miles a day when we're there, I contend that it doesn't matter how much I eat, because I'm workin' it.

Fortunately for us, Disney Dining has improved. It's no longer only shitty hamburgers and pre-packaged ice cream novelties (although, I can slum with the novelties from time to time). Here's a guide, for your own little excursion to the devil's playground:

Best Food and Drink Experience: This would have to go to the bar at Ariel's Grotto, formerly the Wolfgang Puck sponsored Avalon Cove (he pulled out after about 3 months), located in Disney's California Adventure (DCA). Jon calls this his favorite ride. The best thing about DCA is that they have a liquor license. And this bar (shout out to bartender Lisa) has the strongest damn drinks ever, with Disney-esque names like "Riptide Tea" and "Shark Attack." They also serve some relatively decent lobster nachos (with real cheese, because if I ever get that fake cheese crap on my fucking tortilla chips I will stand on the friggin' table and throw it back at the kitchen). These drinks will knock you on your ass. Try having a couple and then heading back over to Disneyland to ride Pirates of the Caribbean (hereafter referred to as simply "Pirates"). Suddenly, it's the most fun ride you've ever been on, as opposed to the ride you use to take a nap on after lunch.

Best "I need something healthy" option
: They now have kiosks that have vegetables and dip as well as apple slices with caramel dip. Jon and I love those veggies. They're surprisingly fresh (and relatively cheap). They help counterbalance the pound of cotton candy that I usually manage to eat in my first ten minutes in the park.

Best "I'm so much cooler than you" experience: Club 33. Club 33 is a member's only club, and the only place inside the Disneyland Park where alcohol can be consumed (unlike DCA, where the whole park has a license). We were able to go because our friend's brother's law firm had a membership (got that?). It used to be Walt's private dining room to entertain the important peeps. It's very nice inside, the service is great and the food is better than most other park food. We've only been for lunch, where it's a buffet, but there's fresh seafood, salads, pastas and did I mention the alcohol? You can only go with a member (or if a member gets you in), but if you get the chance, do it.

Best "I can eat without a bird shitting on me" experience: The Blue Bayou. Right next to Club 33, this eatery is actually *inside* Pirates. It's a New Orleans theme and it's dark and quiet and usually has fewer kids than the rest of the park. Try the Mardi Gras salad and the jambalaya. It's good, not great, but still better than standard amusement park fare.

Best "I have a death wish" treat
: The Dole Pineapple Whip. This is smooth and tasty but it's located in the section we affectionately call "The Place Where All the People Are" or "The Busiest Place on Earth." This would be right at the entrance to Adventureland from Main Street. Some genius decided to make the entrance pretty small, and put the most popular ride (Indiana Jones) in there, while making sure that the bathrooms were right where you enter. Thousands of fucking people and strollers and oh-my-GOD-would-somebody-please-kill-me-now. Awesome. But that pineapple whip is tasty.

Best "It's raining and I've been here since 7 in the morning" dining choice
: The Storyteller's Cafe in the Grand Californian hotel. Nothing picks me up when it's pissing down rain at ten in the morning like a Mickey waffle. Plus, Chip and Dale are there, so I mean, c'mon. They too, have a buffet, but I'd stick with the a la carte menu, where you can also get things like huevos rancheros.

Best kept secret
: The wine bar at the Disneyland Hotel. It rocks. The restaurant (Hook's Point) above doesn't suck either.

Best "must have protein NOW" choice
: Bengal Barbecue, right across from Indiana Jones. They have skewers of meat and/or vegetables. Simple and tasty. Plus, they have Mickey pretzels.

The "I'm pretending that I don't know" transgression: French fries from the Westward 'Ho wagon, across from Thunder Mountain (a.k.a. Death Mountain). Nice way to get your grub on. Until you read the fine print that the fries are provided by my arch-enemy -- McDonalds.

Best "We're with the parents and need a place to eat" options
: Catal and Naples, both owned by the Patina group and both located in Downtown Disney. Catal has got a Mediterranean vibe, while Naples is a pizzeria. Both restaurants are good at what they do, and while I wouldn't go there often if it were a local restaurant, they are great choices for your Disney experience.

Best "Must have coffee NOW" breakfast
: La Brea Bakery in downtown Disney. Go through the line, grab your coffee and a croissant and hit that park, bitches!

Best "Can I please get some real food now?" restaurant: Napa Rose, in the Grand Californian. They poached Chef Andrew Sutton from Auberge du Soleil in Napa. The first two times we went there, we were underwhelmed, but on our last visit, with Jon's parents, his sister and her boyfriend, we were pleasantly surprised, and impressed.

The bread is good, which is always a great sign. More impressive, was the wine list put together by Michael Jordan, who has somehow morphed into a middle aged white guy.

The wine list is huge. Jon and I found ourselves wondering who actually goes there and orders the $2K bottle of wine, but no matter. Our server (who I could expose -- but I won't -- as all cast members have to wear name tags. I will say that her name tag said she's from Anaheim) came over and I asked for a sommalier, because there was a Greek wine I hadn't heard of before. She told me *she* was a sommalier so I asked her. She had no idea about the wine. I said it sounded really interesting and that I was really impressed with their list. While I was asking about the wine list, Jon threw in a "You have a great list" comment and that was that. She turned her attention from me to him and only talked to him about wine decisions for the rest of the night. It was hands down, the most blatant display of sexism I've ever experienced in a restaurant, and from a woman no less. In the end, she was of no help with the wine at all telling us about a "really unusual" wine which turned out to be a Gruner Vetliner we'd had a dozen times before. Nevertheless, what we chose on our own turned out great.

Server lady was telling us all about when she was on TV and thought she looked fat one minute, and then throwing menus at us the next. Welcome to bi-polar server land. During dessert, she brought Jon's dad a plate that said "Happy Birthday" even though we had told several people that it wasn't his birthday, but we were, in fact, celebrating an award he was getting. Oh well.

The food seems to have found it's groove. Mine was the least exciting (grilled prawns with quinoa) but still decent. Jon was madly in love with his shortrib, and declared sister's boyfriend's rabbit to be THE BEST HE'S EVER HAD. What now? You mean better than the rabbit you had at French Laundry? The answer, my friends, was YES. Holy crap.

Um. OK.

The pheasant appetizer with chanterelles was also a huge hit, and Jon's mom really liked her Petrale Sole.

Overall, I'd go back again.

So if you find yourself in the Magic Kingdom, you've got some options beyond churros and turkey legs. Not that there's anything wrong with that either.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld


Blogger Alice said...


This is WONDERFUL!!!!

Thank you so much!

7/02/2005 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Words can not express how happy I was to see this review. I'm a totall foodie myself with a love for Disneyland that most people can't understand. Thanks for theis review--I especially loved learning that there a vegetable skewers available. I'm a vegetarian, and at so many parks that means many meals of fries and ice cream.

Also, you're not wrong about Fast Pass. It's genius.

10/30/2005 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vegetarian is easy. Try eating in these places when your diet is whole foods vegan. No dairy, no fried food = bring your own sustenance. Go to trader joes. Buy sugar snap peas for two bucks. Stick in pocket.

Thanks for the tip on the veggie skewers. I will look out for them.

The Napa Rose looks promising for wildly overpriced veggies and linen. I am hosting a family dinner, so I will try this place. I (and my credit card) will be there soon to check it out. Wine is vegan. :)

11/14/2005 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you not add the smoked turkey leg across from the Matterhorn entrance?! That's the best!

6/08/2006 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know what you mean by disney sickness. we are disney annual passholders and everytime i go i always
say i am never coming back here its just too many people etc etc... but you know right now i cant wait to
get back, i am getting the shakes just talking about it
maybe there needs to be an AA for this sickness
"DA" disney anoymous!!!!

7/18/2006 11:58 AM  
Blogger Thinposter said...

Like you, I love Disneyland against my better, Trader Joe's shopping judgement. Your reviews are spot-on! Another place we love is the Bread Bowl Place (I'm pretty sure it has another name, but I have no idea what it is) on the wharf at California Adventure. There's always lots of seating and they have a really yummy chicken and apple salad in a sourdough bowl, and good soups in bowls, too. Our last trip, we discovered a the little candy shop back by the Winnie the Pooh ride--it's usually pretty quiet back there, and they have Hunny pot shaped rice crispie treats.

9/05/2006 6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you leave out the very best junk food of all, the fritters in New Orleans Town?

1/26/2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said...

This is hilarious! I have never run across any other foodies - who love Disneyland as much as we do. We probably go once a year and stay overnight at the Grand Californian. They also serve those same strong drinks by the pool at the hotel!

2/10/2007 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting.
I am forced to eat park food many times in the year as I am a passholder myself. I am trying to talk some of the girlfriends into going to the resturaunt in the Grand Californian, but it looks like a table for one as most of them are not in a great financial situation at this point. (For that I am lucky.) Hope all goes well, or I will be stuck eating a volcano cake at the Rainforest Cafe for the fifth time. :)

8/16/2007 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am also a Disney Junkie, I have to mention the AWESOME salad at the Pizza Port and the FREE REFILLS on drinks! Keep your cup all day and have Iced tea whenever you want! Another little HOT TIP is at Plaza Inn you can get a Free glass of Ice Water in a real cup. No, I'm not CHEAP, just a frugal housewife!

3/21/2008 1:36 PM  

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